Picture Book Review: Mabel: A Mermaid Fable by Rowboat Watkins

Review: Mabel: A Mermaid Fable by Rowboat Watkins
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: March 24, 2020 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

A lovely and laugh-out-loud picture book from the award-winning author of Rude Cakes and Most Marshmallows .


Mabel isn’t like the other mermaids. Lucky isn’t like the other octopuses. But when they find each other, they discover that true friendship isn’t about how you look, and that sometimes what we are searching for is right under our noses. The inimitable Rowboat Watkins is back with another humorous tale about being true to yourself.

What was weird about Mabel wasn’t her mustache…

If you haven’t yet experienced a Rowboat Watkins picture book, I heartily recommend you give the creator’s books a whirl. A 2010 recipient of the Sendak Fellowship, Watkins arrived on the picture book scene with the well-received (and funny!) Rude Cakes, followed by titles like Pete With No Pants, and Most Marshmallows (I hope to talk about this one in the near future!). As well as looking into the creator’s past works, I encourage you to get ready to welcome the overwhelmingly lovely and sublimely bonkers Mabel: A Mermaid Fable.

Mabel tried hiding her nose behind jaunty shells
and by wearing seaweed falsies,
but this only made her feel like a clown.

Mabel is an adorable mermaid with tufted hair who lives in the ocean with her mom, dad, two big sisters, and baby brother. It may appear like a busy yet lovely watery life, but there is a major problem- at least in Mabel’s eyes: she does not have a mustache! Everyone in her family has one- “even her baby brother [has] a tiny baby mustache”! But Mabel, for whatever reason, does not and that makes her feel lacking in some way…and extremely self-conscious. Hiding and trying to cover the lack of mustache works to a small degree, but how can Mabel live her life forever hidden? It is through meeting and making a wonderful new friend- one with their own distinctive look- that Mabel begins to let her worries go and appreciate the power of uniqueness. Brilliantly illustrated (truly marvelous to pore over), with an original story at its core, Mabel: A Mermaid Fable is a story simultaneously wise and enchantingly wacky. (Not to mention a story that makes great use of inserting “nudibranch” into the dialogue multiple times! A conversation and/or research starter, if ever!).

Mabel: A Mermaid Fable is a winner, and adds to Watkins’ roster of offbeat, unexpected, singular, and terrific picture books. Readers on the lookout for an epically delightful, warm and giggly read aloud, or those who are fans of authors and illustrators such as Cindy Derby, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, or Florence Perry Heide might especially relish (and want to hug) Watkins’ latest.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

3 thoughts

  1. thank you for highlighting his book! Love the sound of it, putting on my library ‘please order’ list (and so excited to know nudibranchs are featured! ha)

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